As Tokelau is a non-self-governing territory of New Zealand, the flag of New Zealand has been used as the official flag for Tokelau. However, in May 2008 the local parliament, the General Fono, approved a distinctive flag and national emblem for Tokelau. This flag has not yet been widely used for official purposes, but an official launch of the new flag was planned for October 2009. The Governor-General presented the flag to the Ulu-o-Tokelau as Tokelau's first official flag on 7 September 2009.
A referendum on self-determination in 2006 failed to carry (it was supported, but not with the necessary supermajority), and another one in October 2007 fell 16 votes short.
In June 2007 the regional parliament (General Fono) decided over the future flag, anthem and national symbol of Tokelau. The proposed flag depicted a stylized Polynesian canoe and four stars. The stars represent the three main islands and also Swains Island, administered by the USA (American Samoa) but claimed by Tokelau. As the required supermajority was not reached in the 2007 self-determination referendum, the flag was not officially adopted.
In May 2008, the General Fono approved the final versions of the national symbols of Tokelau. The flag design approved is based on the 2007 proposal with minor changes to the arrangement of the stars, the Southern Cross is used in place of a representation of the geographic representation of the islands. A national emblem was also approved at this time.
The Governor General presented the new flag to the Ulu as Tokelau's first official flag on 7 September 2009. An official launch of the new flag was planned for October 2009.